Interview Annie May Byrne Noonan
Was there someone, whether family member or famous chef that first inspired you to cook professionally?
My grandmother and mother inspired me to pick up the wok. And from then on professionally, I have learnt from cooking with chefs, books and eating out.
Are you from a family that takes cooking seriously?
My mother is a great cook, she loves to experiment with new ingredients. Cooking is her true passion. She gets more obsessed with new ingredients than I do.
Do you think the culinary world is more accepting of diversity than other industries?
You would find all cultures in the kitchen all working together. That is how it should be and reflective of the world – include not exclude.
Who are your culinary inspirations right now?
Sustainable mindful chefs like Dan Barber. I would love to meet and cook with him. Sichuan Chef Yubo, who weaves Chinese tradition and story with fine Chinese as well as Western cooking techniques.
Do you think Chinese cuisine can sometimes have an unfair association with fast food?
Yes, on the whole in general Chinese cuisine still gets a bad rap with most people thinking it’s unhealthy. Chinese cooking at home is simple, seasonal, healthy, honest food. Restaurant food of course can be indulgent like all cuisines but it’s a case of knowing what to order.
What three quick and healthy food recipes do you swear by?
I’m Taiwanese and growing up on my grandmothers farm we would eat a lot of greens and broths. It does depend on my mood, but currently I’m obsessed with vegetable broths as a base – Miso buckwheat Soybean ramen, Tomato and shiitake mushroom soup, ginger pork and salted mustard leaf soup.
You are hosting a dinner party, what three courses would you prepare for the ultimate foodie get together?
This is difficult…I would probably do a series of small plates for sharing. That’s my kind of food for entertaining, lots of small bites.
Perhaps my Beetroot and pomelo smoked salmon Yu sheng on Shiso, Sichuan crab crushed wasabi peas with rice, smoked duck soy fig pancakes with pickled cucumbers, grilled oyster beef rice rolls, and steamed pork and crab pearl balls, crispy Tofu bean curd rolls….
Are there any new exciting projects in the pipeline for you?
I have a cookbook coming out in September which is all about celebrating easy, quick ‘wok-fry’ dishes for home cooks.
If you had to create a Chinese food fusion with another cuisine, what would the combination be?
I have many conflicting and contrary ideas, especially when it comes to balancing what’s good for the planet and our own needs as humans.
Right now I’m interested in American & Chinese cuisine. Perhaps these two nations can unite through the fusing of palates.
How much harder or easier is it being a woman in the culinary industry?
Difficult as hell. It’s still very much a man’s world but things are slowly changing.
What is your favourite British cooking show?
I love admire Mary Berry with her no nonsense approach. She’s very cool with her British charm, beautiful hair and funky nails. She reminds me of my grandmother who cooked in a cheong sum and wore bright red lipstick. I want to be like that – elegant and graceful when I age but hopefully still rocking it in the kitchen.
Do you think London is a dynamic place for Chinese food culture, and if so- why?
London is cool for the merging of cultures full stop. It’s a playground for chefs. The diversity is amazing. I always read about what’s new and can’t keep up with the mash ups going on. It’s the place to be for foodies.Ching He Huang is taking part in J Sheekey Atlantic Bar’s female guest chef series on 27th June. For more information and to book, please visit: jsheekeyatlanticbar.co.uk